Mumbai Crime: Demand grows for return of special homicide squad

Updated: 07 August, 2020 09:12 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon | Mumbai

Experts and cops say collection of forensic evidence from the body and scene of incident/offence is crucial in a homicide or human trafficking cases

The special squad was set up in 2006. Representation pic/Istock
The special squad was set up in 2006. Representation pic/Istock

To ensure crucial scientific evidence are not lost from a scene of crime/incident and during an autopsy, which would in turn help improvise the conviction rate, the Mumbai police had in 2016 formed their own 'Special Homicide Investigation Squad', but not many serving police officers are aware of its existence.

Now, with the ongoing investigation into the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput, there has been a fresh call for revival of the squad. Experts believe if Mumbai police had the special squad now, the forensic evidence would have helped them rule out any foul play in Rajput's alleged suicide case.

The squad was the brainchild of Dr Walter Vaz, former professor and head of department, Forensic Medicine and Toxicology, KEM Hospital. Dr Vaz had chalked out the plan for the squad, which the city Crime Branch found quite useful back then.

To improve conviction rate

Meeran Borwankar, who was then the joint commissioner of police, Crime Branch, Mumbai, said, "The Special Homicide Investigation Squad would help zonal investigators in collection of scientific evidence from the crime scene and liaison with medical colleges and forensic experts, when needed. We would also collaborate with other state investigating agencies and CBI for investigation of complicated homicide or human trafficking cases."

Borwankar, retired DGP (BPR&D), Delhi, said the fall in conviction rate, especially in homicidal cases, made the city police department bring in the special squad in 2006. "Though, I would not know how much it helped in improving the conviction rates, off hand." A retired forensic expert said, "After coroner system of inquiry into a death was abolished in 1999, the medical examiner system should have come into force, wherein ideally a team of forensic specialists consisting of forensic medicine, forensic photographer, finger print expert, forensic scientists and police, but unfortunately the scenario is far different from reality, and instead the police inquest u/s 174 of CrPc came into existence. Such coordinated teams must be brought back under one roof." Dr Shailesh Mohite, professor and head of the department, Forensic Medicine and Toxicology at Topiwala National Medical College, also called for a reformation in medico legal cases. He said forensic evidence is crucial in assault cases too.

"It is the need of the hour to have such specialised squad formed and the same need not be merely on paper, but it should be used in practice, and not just in homicidal cases, but even those cases where death are suspicious," said Dr Mohite, who is also Medico Legal Association of Maharashtra president. Dr Mohite said the advice of the squad team (region wise) should even be used in ante mortem cases, example — violence against women.

Mumbai has five regions — South, Central, West, East and North Region, and each police station in the region can reach out to the designated medical colleges (Nair, LTMG, KEM, Cooper and Grant Medical College) in their respective regions, to seek advice and for better coordination."

Would've helped in SSR case

Dr Mohite acknowledged that the existence of a special squad today would have helped a lot in the deaths of Rajput and his former manager Disha Salian.

Dr Rajesh Dhere, secretary of the Medico Legal Association of Maharashtra, said, "The idea of formation of the said squad was with an intent to collect maximum forensic and scientific evidences from the crime scene investigation, so that all such forensic evidences could be assembled, analysed and applied in true sense of law, so that justice is not denied to the victim of homicidal act or victim of an abuse." Dr S M Patil, police surgeon, who is also medico legal advisor for Maharashtra, said, "It is the need of the hour to have such special squads." A police officer said, "It is a welcome idea, as it will help the policemen, who are already overburdened with routine policing to work along with forensic experts. This would ensure we don't miss out on any crucial evidence."

Expert speaks

Rohini Salian, former chief public prosecutor, said, "It is high time that the investigating police team and forensic experts work hand in hand from the beginning in a case. Formation of a special squad is very crucial from the criminal justice aspect. Scientific evidence is considered primary evidence under the Indian Evidence Act, which is crucial for improving the conviction rate."

Objectives of special homicide investigation squad, as suggested by Professor Walter Vaz

  • Collection of evidence from the scene of offence
  • Services of Forensic Medicine experts be available from the stage of scene of crime till postmortem.
  • Co-ordination between Forensic Medicine Experts and the Investigating officers through out the investigation.
  • Evidential support during trial.

Plan of action

  • Each Regional Additional Commissioner of Police to contact HOD Forensic Medicine of the Government hospital in his area. Get two expert nominated for special Homicide Investigation squad.
  • Keep contact details of teams with Regional control rooms, with copies to the main control room
  • Discuss the need of Special Homicide Investigation Squads with the zonal officers and seek their active involvement.

Expected results

  • Improving investigation of serious / complicated murder cases.
  • Successful prosecution

Formation of Special Homicide Squad is for better coordination, collection of evidences and successful prosecution.

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First Published: 07 August, 2020 07:40 IST

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